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25th Sep
Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Racing the Thompson Singapore Grand Prix in the 1970s, Singapore race driver past as told

Posted by Shaun at 12:06 pm under Automotive | 6283 Reads | 4 Comments
Off to camp, off the camp one last time!

Had some time over lunch with my mum today and talked quite abit on Singapore’s racing past given the Formula 1 fever up now over the past week and running up the race weekend. Despite it’s introduction in the 1950s, formula one was a sport I’ve always followed since the late 90s even before the fever touched Malaya with Sepang. That was a hidden interest I never saw surface (and something limited to watching on the TV screens either).

Or I can say that at least my love for motorsports is something I have out of a genuine personal interest, even given at times where the sport was know from nothing to none compared to soccer here. It’s weird sometimes too, besides Go-Karting as a pasttime here or overseas. Neither will my bike or driving instructors keep yelling at me on the way I tend to naturally take my turns from the outside into the inside of a chicane on the exit. I enjoy driving just for the joy of driving, and I believe not anyone will just get their car out just for a relaxing “aimless” drive.

Singapore GP 1967

Thompson GP Track
Though my mum is more of a backseat driver now, my dad once said that she was quite heck of a driver if you put her behind the wheel. My mum is no stranger to the racing scene either, having lived at Nee Soon when she was growing up. Her old home was situated right next to the race track along the now defunct Upper Thompson road- Sembawang Hills. Exposure to racing elements such as GP, vintage-racing, bikes, touring to formulae-based races, or “pointed loti-cars” (bread cars) as they call it in dialect typical of the rocket shaped Formula 3 cars back then.

She remembered they had walls and fences up almost like that we see at Marina bay circuit now and her family will always be there to watch even if they didn’t pay for tickets. Whenever there was a race weekend, she and her family who get up as early at 5 in the morning so that they can move into the track compound and book a place before the ticketing staff come so they can enter for free. Tickets cost from $1 to $25 back then its almost an equivalent of the exuberant prices we see today as well. Drivers come all over the world to race, such as New Zealand and Japan.

Singapore GP Thompson 1970 Track Layout

There you can give a try of racing the route. The unique thing about the old Thompson route is that it is not only a street circuit, but one which can be made out of closed roads and form a continuous looping circuit. There are many hotspots around the track and driving the route is a thrill of it’s own with it’s own spectacle.

Racing were not as safe back then and the old winding roads of Thompson is one you can easily make out of the winding country roads typical of that in the WRC. There was a combination of terrain factors together with low and high speed turns as well as the rather notorious Devil’s Bend which is a hairpin smacked right in between 2 high speed straights.

A history lost?
Piecing together the stories my mum always casually told over the years (but I never seriously listened), Singapore’s motorsport heritage had came a very long way. Strangely, to many people I know it seems that it had never dawned to many especially for most of us youngsters, given those born in the early 1980 are almost as clueless on about Singapore’s long lost racing history. (Or is it just because that this phase of motorsport history was never taught in school, thus we need not know). It not until the early 70s around 1972 where racing was halted in Singapore due to increased traffic demand (thus unable to close roads for races), actions from authorities as well as developments around the area, taking a whole rich racing history into the dumps. The old roads cease to exist now, the stories only told as wise tales now only from those who lived and swear by the old Thompson track and never to be unearthed, till today.

Singapore GP Marina Bay 2008 Track Layout

I remembered catching a glispe of the Book “Snakes & Devils” presumably one named right after the few most notorious bends of the Thompson track, contrary to our rather generic way of naming our Marina turns as “turn 1” or “turn 2”- typical to our naming scheme for the attractions we call around Singapore. The book will be quite an excellent read for those wanting to find out more of Singapore’s racing history.

We can only move forward in time. Unlike Monaco, the idea of the Asia’s first formula street night race is cool, well not just the fact that Bernie Ecclestone wanted it to be. Formula 1 is new in Singapore, but calling it the start of motorsport history in Singapore is laughable- one you say possibly say, nothing to do with the indecent lack of racing exposure our people have. Singapore is famous for it’s economic and resource citizens and there are of course exceptions, but on the front we are still barely past the infant stages of exposing or embracing such international events.

Promising motorsport future
But I won’t be one bit worried about what we can achieve with this new track, it will an event one can look forward to as anticipative as how one come across one’s birthday annually. And I am sure that Singapore’s short but rich racing history will guide us along this path for motorsports glory. Moreover, I can’t deny that history will pen itself further with many more great things to after this Sunday’s race. I believe the Marina GP track will be the start of many more smaller racing events to come and enjoy, given it’s isolated Pit-location by the bay- kart racing, figure racing, there are just so many possibilities, all made possible by just this one event on the 28/09/08.

More of the Singapore GP as illustrated by the Red bull team on the click:


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    4 Comments
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    • Mike Guy says:

      Hi, I enjoyed the blog very much. I was served a very enjoyable 2 1/2 year tour in Singapore with the Royal Air Force & remember the racing at the old circuit very well. I returned to Singapore in 1974 to work for SIA but sadly racing had finished by then. As I remember some British servicemen used to take part in the racing & suffered fatal accidents but I am not sure how many there were. I still visit Singapore from time to time & still believe it is one of the worlds greatest cities.

      Keep up the good work on the blog,

      Mike

      • Shaun says:

        Hi Mike, sure thing thanks!

        Wow it’s hard to come by someone like you who seen actual life on the track back during those days. I wasn’t even born back then!

        Its nice knowing the motor culture coming back to Singapore, particularly with the new Changi track. From what I know the old Thompson track is mainly closed due to the increased use of the old roads for civilian transport, also given the rapid development of the area which led to a surge in traffic there, therefore it was nearly impossible to get any green light to close the roads for races. Yes, the spade of Fatal accidents there was also one of the told contributing factors for the track demise.

        Glad you see Singapore as one of the greatest cities!
        On the forefront, a good time to pop by Singapore will be around end 2009 to mid 2010. By then we will have quite a number of new attractions, such as the integrated resorts in Sentosa and marina bay. The new gardens by the bay is a neat eden “clone” there are just so many uncompleted developments on now.

    • Mike Guy says:

      Hi Shaun,

      Thanks for the reply to my posting. Having re-read it I noticed a mistake in my wording.
      Second sentance should have read… ‘I served’ & not ‘I was served’, tidak apa lah!

      I am moving to Malaysia (P. Langkawi) next year so I will be in Singapore 2009 visiting some Chinese friends of mine. No doubt they will bring me up to date with all the changes.

      I think I will now be looking for the Book, ‘Snakes & Devils’, that you mention in your blog, it
      should be interesting.

      Best Wishes,

      Mike

      • Shaun says:

        Hi mike, ah yes, Langkawi is a nice place!

        Have you checked out the official website of the book? I have not read that book yet, but I think the book will possibility mean more for you than me, considering that you have been at the old track itself.

        For me, I am simply just looking at a racing rich history being reborn in Singapore again and of course not forgetting out roots!

        On yes, the URL is http://www.snakes-devils.com/

        Cheers!
        Shaun

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